|The project was designed to identify changes in the employment relationship and contractual basis of employment over the 1980's and 1990's, and to examine their consequences for the future of work. The growth and distribution of numerical and functional flexibility, and their impact on employees and the self-employed, were examined. The project also explored changes in work expectations, organisational commitment and work pressure. Human resource practices and control regimes were examined alongside their impact upon work/family balance, work effort and levels of work strain. Contemporary accounts and explanations of the changing nature of work were assessed, in order to understand both continuity and discontinuity in employment relations.
The project used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methodology. The quantitative survey and related documentation formed the original deposit, and sixteen qualitative interviews and related schedules were added for the second edition of the study.
The quantitative dataset records the responses of workers aged 20-60 covering issues of work expectations and employment commitment; previous work history; second jobs; current main job details; organisation of work; information and communications; training, employability and career; benefits and working time; job satisfaction and organisational commitment; job security; personal and family details; prosperity, earnings and hours; employer details; discretion, responsibility and supervision; representation, pay fixing and rewards; type of business, clients, employees and motives; competition, risk assessment and start-up capital; work intensity; job security, perceived alternatives.
Five- and seven-item Likert scales were used.
Qualitative interview data
The interview material is taken from the preliminary qualitative phase of the project, which was subsequently used to help devise new questions for the survey questionnaire. The interviews highlight a number of issues such as:
The difficulty of recruiting and retaining employees in a buoyant labour market. Employers spoke of the difficulty of finding skilled (an not-so-skilled) workers in the context of tight labour market conditions. The growing internationalisation of recruitment, manifest in US-based companies opening branches in South East England, was another force for driving up salaries for skilled individuals. In this context, the possibility of relocating 'back office' operations to low wage developing countries was being pursued.
The 'long hours' culture and the consequences for work-family balance. Employees spoke of the pressure to show 'face time' in their workplaces, a practice that was considered essential to display motivation within competitive, professional work environments. Young professionals spoke of the frustrations of working long hours on tedious tasks to meet deadlines and impress their superiors. Another notable factor was the advent of ICT (e.g. email, intranet, etc.). While one of the benefits included being able to work from home, an acknowledged cost was email overload and the pressure to deal with this outside of 'normal working hours'. Though the feminisation of the labour force was recognised, employers were making relatively little progress in providing family-friendly policies.
The spread of team-based forms of work. Both employers and employees highlighted the spread of team-based work, especially for project-based tasks. These frequently meant that employees were members of more than one project team and moved between teams as new projects (and teams) emerged. This posed a challenge for managers, who still had to monitor their subordinate's performance, and to reward systems that focused on individuals rather than teams.
Finally, legislative changes were seen to have contributed to the burden of change on managers and had constrained employers' policies.